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Your Career Isn’t a Predictable Path

There’s been a shift in how a career actually plays out. It used to be your career was very predictable- you would start with a company and grow internally, rising the proverbial ladder.  Those days are gone, for better or worse.

Know This…

going down the pathThe career path you start out on, is not the one you’ll end up on. Seldom does it have anything to do with your choices, but circumstances that force you in a new direction. That could be job dissatisfaction, a merger, changes in the industry you work in or a myriad of other factors.

Let’s say you are a new college graduate and land a dream job fresh out of college (which, by the way, is getting harder to do!). Now, flash forward two or three years, and you find yourself disillusioned with the work you are doing. Despite your efforts to move internally, you determine that the best solution is to leave for a different type of job that sounds challenging, will use your existing skills and offers the opportunity to learn more.

Or maybe you’re a seasoned employee who’s five years from retirement and find yourself without a job due to downsizing. After the shock and trauma wear off, you are ready to find something you really enjoy doing in your “bridge to retirement” job where you can use some of your favorite talents.

The secret to your career success is re-invention or morphing which I wrote about this week. But there are other important ingredients that will enable you to succeed as you morph.

Never Let Yourself Feel Entitled

past present futureYou’ve paid your dues, either by completing an advanced degree or working in your field for awhile. But neither of these scenarios entitle you to anything. It sounds unfair, but what happens when you feel entitled? Do you ease up, lose your competitive advantage, or expect certain perks, responsibilities or treatment? What if you didn’t feel entitled? What if you felt like you had to prove yourself every day? Altering your entitlement attitude keeps you fresh and keeps you learning. And don’t forget how your manager or co-workers perceive you if you act superior and entitled.

Neither a degree or seniority entitles you to  special treatment or responsibilities. What matters most is how you perform day in and day out. What is the value you add every day? How do you help solve problems without making others feel inferior or stupid? How do you make a difference without alienating your colleagues? And remember, your historical knowledge is only valuable if it helps solve a current problem. It is not to be flaunted nor is your historical experience always relevant to others.

Pay Based on Performance

pay dayWhere did all the good paying jobs go? That is the million dollar question. Should a salary be based on seniority? In other words, should every worker with 15 plus years experience make more than someone with two to three years of experience? The answer from the company’s perspective is…only if they solve problems worth more money. And this becomes difficult to evaluate. The good paying jobs may not come back due to our global economy, so prepare and adjust accordingly.

One thing is for sure. If there are hundreds or thousands of people who solve the same problems the same way you do, you will be worth a lot less. This is a basic principle of supply and demand- the scarcer the resource, the more it is worth. So what can you do? Stay on the cutting edge. Teach yourself new skills that will differentiate you from others with the same basic role. Market and promote your unique way of solving problems and the outcomes.

Stay Hungry

fireThe best way to keep yourself in demand is to stay hungry (I LOVE this commencement speech by Steve Jobs!).  Learn new things, take on new challenge, and build new relationships. In order for you to continue to feel the fire in your belly, you have to love the work you do. When you feel excited about your work, there is little that gets in your way. And you can’t do “it” (whatever you want to do) without supporters, allies and connections, so please, start building them now! When you work hard and build a reputation as someone who solves problems, fun things start to happen. You are building your reputation!

Right or wrong. Fair or unfair. There’s a new career playbook and you’re going to need to learn about it. I hope this helps provide you with a new perspective.

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